The time that Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller, in restrained straight man mode) has been dreading has come: the meeting between his fiancée's (Teri Polo) parents, Jack (Robert DeNiro, trying to be funny instead of just being funny) and Dina (Blythe Danner) Byrnes, and his parents, sex therapist Roz (Barbara Streisand) and stay-at-home dad Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman). Spending time at the Focker family residence in Florida, Jack struggles to keep his family in order in the face of overwhelmingly open-minded parenting as well as keep an eye on Greg, who he's still convinced is all wrong for his precious daughter.
There's little one can fault the filmmakers behind "Meet the Fockers" for; here they are, faced with a sequel to an enormously popular hit from 2000, and that cold, eternal wind of audience expectation blowing in their faces. It's a can't win situation. Sadly, for the viewer, director Jay Roach and his screenwriters went the way of many sequels: utter, infallible repetition, which leaves the film in a very precarious position. "Meet the Fockers" is stuck somewhere between being absolutely hilarious and one of the worst comedies ever committed to celluloid.
There's a strange insistence found in "Fockers" that merely repeating the same jokes from "Parents" is enough to entertain for a second time around. Yes, the foibles of Greg trying to impress hardened Jack were fodder for groovy comedy in the first film; nevertheless, this time out, that teat has been squeezed dry, and seeing Greg in the exact same predicaments elicits eye rolls and yawns, not peals of laughter. Greg comically forced to tell the truth to Jack again? Check. More jokes involving Mr. Jinx, the toilet-flushing cat? You bet. Greg finding himself in entirely overwhelming situations that he can't possibly explain to his future father-in-law? Many times, yet Roach oddly ramps up these sequences in a strange "Fear Factor," gross-out style that takes the fun out of the moment. Is it hilarious to see Greg drink breast milk? Watch as the remnants of his circumcision fly into a fondue pot? See Jack use a synthetic breast to feed his grandson? Or see the Fockers' dog dry hump everything in sight? Not at all. In fact, all this nonsense takes away from the real bliss of the movie: Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand.
As two volcanic Hollywood liberals playing Greg's hippie parents, Streisand and Hoffman are the only reason to endure "Fockers," for they commit grand theft movie and steal the film away from the "Parents" troupe. They are quite a pair to behold, playing a couple still deeply in love (with plenty of fire left in the bedroom) in addition to being completely enamored with their son, much to the dismay of Jack and his chilly CIA worldview. Hoffman appears to be on some dose of ecstasy with his performance, running around like a lunatic spreading joy and hearty laughs with each appearance onscreen. Who knew the mere mention of chimichangas could be so hilarious? On the other side of the Fockers lies Barbara Streisand, who hasn't been this easygoing on camera in over 30 years. While she isn't handed the juicer gags of the film, she makes a strong impression in "Fockers" just by being cheerful again. I missed that side of her. The Fockers of the title are so good, in fact, that when Roach has to interrupt their screentime to move along that pesky thing called "plot," his film takes a serious dip in tolerance levels, and one starts to miss the couple in every moment they're not involved.
The VC-1 encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) quality is a tad bewildering at times. Detail is certainly not an issue here, with a hearty read on screen textures, ranging from the comedic values of facial reactions to the Floridian-inspired sprawl of the locations. Brightness is pumped to the max, leaving a hot image that feels excessive and shimmery, walloping viewers with an intense color palette that underscores the film's cartoon leanings. Light grain is evident, getting the picture to a cinematic feel. Shadow detail is consistent, allowing for the proper amount of visual information with the film's rare move to low-light encounters.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is jubilant enough to carry the film's frothy tone, holding firmly to scoring cues as a way to create a sturdy emotional hold. Dialogue is busy, with multiple characters competing for screentime, yet the whole enterprise is carefully separated, permitting voices to expand around the surrounds, best explored with environmental changes. Low-end is light, only coming into play during more disastrous domestic encounters and soundtrack offerings. Spanish and French tracks are available.
English SDH, Spanish, and French tracks are included.
The feature-length audio commentary with director Jay Roach and editor/co-producer Jon Poll is surprisingly committed to the mechanics of the comedy at hand, with the duo exploring slapstick ideas and the timing behind the jokes, along with a hearty discussion of thespian effort. The conversation is more serious than I was anticipating, though it's refreshing to hear Roach so concerned with the solidification of story points, also pointing out some trickery involved to keep the cast together. A few dead spots kill the momentum, but overall it's a fine listen.
"Deleted Scenes" (15:45) fail to provide a major change in the narrative, instead sticking to short bursts of conflict between the families, while extending the broad hijinks with further foreskin and prosthetic breast snafus.
"Bloopers" (11:03) is a massive collection of cast and crew mix-em-ups, highlighting epic giggle fits and flubbed lines. It's good to see De Niro is such a good sport about all of this nonsense.
"Inside the Litter Box: Behind-the-Scenes with Jinx the Cat" (4:02) snatches the feline perspective, isolating the cast and crew reaction to their cat co-star.
"The Manary Gland" (3:05) captures the magic of the unconventional breastfeeding device, showcasing the design and execution of the prop.
"Fockers Family Portrait" (5:59) chats up Hoffman, Streisand, and Stiller for their thoughts on the titular clan, and how they came to join the project.
"The Adventures of a Baby Wrangler" (5:32) joins Rhonda Sherman on the set, where she coordinates the efforts of the young actors, getting them to bond with the cast and deal with cameras.
"Matt Lauer Meets The Fockers" (7:57) is an interview segment with the "Today" show host, who sits down with the cast to discuss the creation of the film.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
"Meet the Fockers" is a big, fat pleaser of a movie that just doesn't have the gas this time around to take its premise all the way to the bank. Roach and his crew are too preoccupied with giving the viewer the same stale old jokes instead of mining the comic gold found in the new material that they're only vaguely paying attention to.
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